solo business trip to NYC - help!
January 18, 2017 8:21 PM   Subscribe

The good news is that I've successfully talked my work into sending me to New York City for a couple work-related seminars in less than two weeks. The terrifying news is that now I actually have to do this thing. I have never been to New York City (I've never spent any significant time in a city larger than Seattle), can get anxious riding public transit in unfamiliar places, and am looking for help/recommendations.

I am flying in to JFK on Monday the 30th around 4 pm. On the 31st and 1st, I have seminars at the Global Financial Conference Center in Midtown (Madison Ave & E 45th) between 8 am and 5 pm. I fly out of JFK Thursday the 2nd around 5:30 pm. I'm staying at a hotel on 45th a few blocks west of the conference center. I will have free time all three evenings and the last day, and I want to try to do as many awesome things as possible, and take pictures of as many cool things as possible.

1) What is going to be the least stressful way to get from the airport to the hotel and vice versa? My work is footing the bill within reason (so, a cab yes, a private town car, probably not). I get weirdly anxious about taking public transit in cities I'm not familiar with and I'm thinking a cab might be the easiest here. Any information you can provide, including literal directions for where to get a cab once I get off the plane, would be really appreciated. Cost? Appropriate tip?

2) On my last day, I think I want to visit a museum, though I have angst about which one. I am torn between the Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I like art, but I also like dinosaur skeletons, so... I am wondering if it will be easier/safer to check out of the hotel in the morning but leave my bag with the concierge and retrieve it prior to going to the airport. (This might also be easier because then the hotel/doorman could get a cab for me.) Museum recommendations? Best way to get there from the hotel?

3) I want to go somewhere tall to see as much of the city as possible. (Not ashamed to admit I love the Space Needle here in Seattle.) What is the best combination of easiest to get to and best views? Empire State Building? One World Trade Center? Somewhere else? Depending on timing I won't necessarily be able to get there during day time but getting there at sunset would be cool. I am also open to getting up early to get somewhere for sunrise.

4) Weather/clothes. My goal is travel as lightly as possible, and am hoping to fit everything in a large backpack and my purse. I'm thinking: one pair of jeans for the travel days, a skirt + leggings for the seminars, and one sweater for each day. (The conferences do not specify a dress code, though I expect people will be dressed pretty nicely.) My usual winter wear in Seattle is a knee-length grey wool coat, scarf, and fingerless gloves. What weather should I expect? Does my clothing plan sound unreasonable?

5) Restaurants. The seminars will provide breakfast and lunch, so I'm mainly looking for good dinner places within easy reach of my hotel. I like most cuisines (don't eat beef or spicy foot), and I especially love sushi. I would really like to treat myself to a nice meal while I'm there, though by treat I mean on my personal scale, which is not necessarily a NYC cost-of-living scale; say $100 after tax/tip (and I don't drink alcohol). I would also be open to a so-so meal with an amazing view. The breakfast at the seminars will I'm sure just be a table of pastries or similar, so if there are good breakfast places nearby, I'll take those too.

6) What else should I do? There are so many options that I can't narrow it down, and I will mostly only have evenings. I like musicals/theater. Is there anything I should try to get a ticket for? Anywhere to buy discounted tickets day-of? I would love to visit a second museum, but it looks like most of them close at 5 or 6 pm so I won't have time. I'd love to visit the Stonewall Inn but don't know how easy it is to get to from where I'll be. I'd like to spend an entire day wandering around Central Park or the Highline, but don't have the time.

Any advice, recommendations, etc. that you have would be greatly appreciated. I'm excited but also really anxious about this so I am grateful for your help. Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (40 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oh! I forgot to add that I am a huge fan of Marvel comics/the Marvel MCU/the Marvel Netflix shows, so if there are any landmarks or recognizable scenery from those nearby, let me know! (What's the big building with the columns and statues on top they fight most of the climactic battle in front of at the end of the Avengers?)
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:38 PM on January 18, 2017

Get a subway pass for the duration of your visit, hopping on for even a couple stops will save a long walk. There a bunch of map apps. But check your orientation coming out of a subway stop, I've gone a couple long blocks the wrong way. :-)

But also just walk, it's all really interesting,

I remember my fist visit asking a woman I was chatting with about finding a restaurant, she laughed and laughed. Soo may options. But midtown, 8th is where local, grab a bite spots are thickest. Upper west side is a good area for dinner.

Walk through times sq at night once, insane. The Chelsea galleries are pretty amazing but it's a day time activity. A run down to battery park to look at the Statue of Liberty, but not much else there.

TDF has $9 off-off-broadway tickets.
posted by sammyo at 8:48 PM on January 18, 2017

Taxis: Worth it. Probably less than $50 with the tip. (I have only gone to Queens or Brooklyn and one way from both airports is usually around $30.) There will be signs pointing to a taxi line. Get in line. Tell the person running the taxi line that you're going to Manhattan. They will pick out a cab for you, and you tell the cabdriver the address or intersection you want. The driver knows how to get there or at least have GPS. I suggest taking a cab to your hotel and dropping everything off, then just walking around in search of dinner if you're there not super late.

Transit: Google Maps is your new best friend, but try to plan ahead and read the map and train routes before you go. A lot of the time the directions will make perfect sense, but won't correspond to the train (I need the Brooklyn train, does a train labeled Canarsie go there? Let's try it and find out!) unless you already know where things are, but if I didn't get lost forever, then you can do it too. Most people will help you out if you're lost, and if you get REALLY lost, you can give up and hail a cab or call a Lyft and they'll drive you where you need to go. The signage is actually pretty good and the transit is pretty reliable, but it's still confusing if you don't know where you're going exactly. Check for transit info and if you'll be there on the weekend, check for the Weekender and make sure you read it and understand it, since on weekends the transit is extra messed up due to various construction.

Weather: if you have a winter coat, gloves, hat, and scarf, you should be fine. Wear layers. Weather's been weird so it might be snowing heavily, it might be 50F. You can buy a hat and scarf if need be. If it does snow you'll want shoes that don't leak and an extra pair of dry socks.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:51 PM on January 18, 2017

A car service will charge a flat fee +tolls and may be cheaper than a taxi. There are kiosks to call them in the baggage area. DO NOT accept a ride from anyone who approaches you, they do not have proper licenses. If you choose to take a cab the stand is outside. Follow the posted signs.

Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center has views of the ESB.

Take the 1 (red)subway downtown from times square to christopher st/sheridan square to get to the stonewall, which is on the n side of christopher e of 7th.

Time out has an app with listings.

You will want gloves that cover your fingers if it's below freezing.

Googling turned up this for superhero sites.
posted by brujita at 9:02 PM on January 18, 2017

Take a cab from JFK. As stated above, just follow the signs at the airport for Ground a Transportation, then for Taxi. There will likely be a line, but I've found that it tends to move quickly at JFK. Having the cross streets for your hotel (or any destination that you want to take a cab to in NY) is more useful than the address, though cab drivers now have GPS.

From JFK to Manhattan is a flat rate (not metered by distance). At that time of day it should be $58 or so, plus the cost of the toll. Tip 20%. You can use credit cards in taxis, and get a receipt if you need to for expensing for work. Take the taxi to your hotel, check in and drop your bags. You'll get stuck in some traffic getting to the hotel at that time of day, but you'll be able to find dinner near your hotel until late, so don't stress about it.

Agree that you should walk through Times Square at night to experience, even though it is a crowded tourist nightmare. But don't eat right in Times Square, because it is a crowded, overpriced tourist nightmare. Going further west (9th Ave) or east or north south is much better.

I haven't been, but friends have told me that Top of the Rock has better views than the Empire State Building. They aren't cheap, so you probably only want to visit one. People like the Freedom Tower, but if you're sticking to Midtown area, Top of the Rock or Empire State is probably better.

Today I wore a wool coat, a scarf and gloves (with full fingers). If it was a bit colder or windy, I would have added an ear warmer or hat. However, I agree that you can buy a hat or gloves if you need them when you're here. I usually throw a small umbrella in my bag too - if you don't bring one, you can buy one but know the very cheap ones being sold on the street tend not to last very long at all.
posted by Caz721 at 9:18 PM on January 18, 2017

I think the building you mean from Avengers may be the outside of Grand Central Station. If so, the part you're looking for is the front, at 42nd and Park (very close to where you'll be). The inside of Grand Central is beautiful and worth walking through, though it will be busy during rush hour.
posted by Caz721 at 9:23 PM on January 18, 2017

Remember that unlike Seattle, transit comes frequently enough that if you miss one / go the wrong way, you're not screwed for another 59.5 minutes waiting for the next one (thanks, weeknight 545) -- at worst it'll be 9 minutes. If you get a pass, there's no monetary cost to being wrong, and you'll have seen a station you otherwise wouldn't have seen.

If you bring / buy gloves, get the ones with fingertips that still allow you to use a touch screen.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2017

Uptown = going north. Downtown = going south for subway trains. Some stops have different entrances for these.
posted by azalea_chant at 10:06 PM on January 18, 2017

Weather-wise, I would check the extended forecast before you go, but it's pretty cold here. Definitely bring the warmest coat you own, as well as the requisite scarf hat gloves (with fingers!) combo.
If you can't stand taking the train, there's always Lyft and Uber, but if you avoid rush hour, it's really not that bad. Word to the wise, the transit cards are called metrocards, and you pay at kiosks and pay a $2.75 flat fee per ride. A good app to download for train info is NextStop. Also, New Yorkers might seem gruff, but I promise we are nice, so if you need directions, just ask someone! You may want to avoid all of the tourist traps like Rockerfeller center, Times Square, etc because it gets really crowded and it's not a real representation of New York, but I understand if you have to see the sights (top of the rock might be a good place to check out the panoramic view of manhattan from). Between the museum of modern history and MoMA, I would hands down pick MoMA, plus there a high end Danny Meyer restraint inside, so you could treat yourself to dinner afterward. I'd also like to recommend the Met, which is my favorite museum, but you really can't go wrong, we have great museums here!
Nobu is the fancy expensive sushi place here, it's a chain, so I'm not sure if it's unique enough for a travel dinner.
Broadway shows- the TKTS booths Are great for buying 1/2 off same-day shows. You can also check the skint The day of, or time out new york for cool things do do at night. There are so many great music venues, if you'd like to see a show while you're in town. I really like the rockwood or city winery, but there are dozens to choose from. If you'd like any specific recommendations, or need help navigation, feel free to pm me, I'd be happy to help !
posted by Champagne Supernova at 10:09 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The met and the natural history museum are a 15 minute walk across Central Park from each other so you could see part of all three in one trip!
posted by azalea_chant at 10:16 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

NYC in winter can get very cold and very windy. It's possible it will only be as cold as it is in Seattle, but it's probable that it will be much colder. I would definitely want gloves with fingers, at the very least. Obviously you should check the weather for the week of your visit and go from there.

To get from the airport to your hotel and back, take a taxi if there's a short line. If there's a long line (sometimes there are lonnnggggg lines, especially from terminal 4 at JFK) take an uber or a lyft. There will likely be a taxi stand outside your hotel.

A million blogs are devoted to restaurants in NYC -- Eater, Grub St, Gothamist and the like all have dedicated NYC restaurant sections to explore. Midtown (where you'll be) is famously worse than the rest of the city for good restaurants, but there will be great things within easy walking/subwaying/cabbing distance.

For pretty views of the city in midtown you should consider Top of the Rock as well as the Empire State Building. You're not actually in town for very long, and most of your time will be in seminars -- you may find downtown further away than you think.

NYC, especially midtown, is in my opinion a much easier city to visit as a stranger than most cities in the US. I get being nervous about it, but it's just incredibly walkable, the crime rate is lower than other major cities, and people are generally pretty helpful and friendly if you ask. I think you'll have a great time.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 10:20 PM on January 18, 2017

Hello, I was the official tour guide at work because I am non-native and didn't mind taking people from the office out of town to the stuff most native people hate. As others said, midtown is really easy to get around as it is on a grid and there's a lot of places to pop in and out of if you need to orient yourself. Here's my non-expert tourist guide to people making short business like trips.

1. New York is like Disney World. Don't try to hit every park in a day. Sounds like you got this down pretty well and don't have a lot of time, so I'm going to skip my usual speech of "No, we're not hitting everything you want to see, pick one and we'll do that as a big event then we'll do things around that area of town."

2. NYC subway is hard to understand if you are carrying luggage and coming from JFK and aren't used to using public transit in global cities. Even I, who knew how to get around, got annoying about taking the train to JFK. Use Uber, they even have a way to separate business expenses on the app so you won't lost the receipt. I'd be surprised if there was a price difference. The only hard part will be locating which Uber is yours and the drivers usually speak poor English but I've always had it work out in the end.

3. It will be cold but not like Chicago cold: glove, hats, winter jacket. You don't need to dress for the arctic.

4. Top of the Rock is a good experience I've heard but I've never gone. If you're in midtown, as others said, might be worth it to go. One World Trade is okay, but expensive and nowhere near you. Easy to get to if you're willing to navigate the subway system, should be a straight shot. There's a lot in walking distance to One World Trade that is more unique then Midtown if you're willing to walk around, like Wall Street and the vibe and architecture of the Financial District is unique. I'd suggest that if you have time.

5. Yes, go to Times Square at night. You'll be safe but you'll save yourself being hassled if you don't look anyone in the eye, have your earbuds in and your hands in your pocket. Lot of people shove mixtapes and brochures in your face. You can walk to Times Square all the way to Central Park and its not that much of a trek. You might want to do Central Park at dusk then move south to Times Square.

6. Take cabs or uber everywhere if it is not in walking distance. You will miss a stop, or a train won't be running or something and if you have any anxiety about public transport and don't mind dealing with just going with the flow it is a pain. Cabs and uber aren't that expensive if you're going to be there for long.

7. Museums, no idea. Personally, I'd skip this and take a cab to some place like St. Mark's Street and walk around in. I'd get dropped off to Union Square, walk around there then either go south to St. Mark's or just wander north. I sort of feel museums are the same experience everywhere, I like them but I don't like rushing through them.

8. If you get out of midtown, I'd personally find a bar that's not TGIF and doesn't look crowded and ask the bartender or locals what is good around there and what you're looking for. If you don't drink, that's fine order a beer, leave a nice tip and then offer it to someone at the bar when you get a suggestion. If you're not a real foodie making a destination at a big name place will be a lot of planning that I don't think is worth it. There's so much good stuff in every neighborhood.

9. Poop and pee as much as possible if you're at a bar or restaurant. If you're walking a lot, I don't think what a lot of people get is that there's not a lot of public places to do this, and the ones that are public are war zones. I'm guessing midtown restaurants that are touristy will be strict about no customers but maybe not? Especially things like McDonald's will be strict about this. Best bet, if you need to go is find a local bar looking place and ask very politely. If they say no and you REALLY need to go just offer them a $5. If they're not crowded you can probably start at $2 and go from there. I might make this sound complicated but I do a lot of walking about sometimes think, oh they'll be some place I can go here shortly and be in some 15 minute walking death zone of nowhere to go. For some reason after about 3 months of being there, it no longer became an issue but I think I just knew the places that were cool about it if you were nice.

10. Cops are really nice, especially in midtown and tourist areas. Feel free to approach them if you're lost.

11. Oh and get a battery pack for your phone. Google Maps sucks up juice, last thing you need to be doing is using it heavily and it die. on that note write down your hotel address in case your phone dies. That's another rookie mistake I see.

I'd love to visit the Stonewall Inn but don't know how easy it is to get to from where I'll be. Again everything midtown to the south will at most be 20 maybe 30 minutes. Uber it, if you spend $100 on Uber during your trip it'll be worth it for piece of mind.
posted by geoff. at 12:22 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Top of the rock if you are viewing daytime, ESB if you're viewing at night.
Ask people things, everyone is lovely and helpful.
Do a few museums, you don't have to stay all day, I can't see everything in a museum and anyhow, wow-fatigue sets in. Pick out a thing or two to see at a few museums and go see them. For example the temple at the met, the giant sloth at the natural history, and enjoy what you also happen to see on the way, it's revolutionized museums for me.
posted by Iteki at 1:07 AM on January 19, 2017

As said above. Stonewall is a very easy train ride (or cab). Make sure you are taking the 1, which is local, downtown to Christopher Street. If you get on the 2 or 3 by accident, get off at 14th Street, and either switch to the 1, or just walk the 6 or 7 blocks down 7th Avenue South. The Christopher St. station is directly across from two bars called Duplex and The Monster (on opposite corners). Stonewall is on the Duplex side of the street, a little further east (away from the subway).
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:43 AM on January 19, 2017

I'm going to go against the grain and suggest taking the train to JFK. Traffic is variable and subway travel times much less so. You take the E to Sutphin Blvd or the A to Howard Beach and transfer to AirTrain. (The E is faster from Midtown, I believe.) AirTrain costs $5 on top of subway fare and the unlimited passes don't apply to AirTrain, so you need to have money on your MetroCard even if you bought the 7-day unlimited. Lift your suitcase over the turnstile before you walk through. (You can also do LIRR to Jamaica and transfer to AirTrain, which is a bit faster and more pleasant. I've never done it, though.)

I was... less than impressed by the Natural History Museum. The dinosaurs were good and apparently the space center is good (I missed it), but basically nothing else has been worked on in at least 30 years. This isn't so much a problem for the exhibits of stuffed animals, but the exhibits about people and cultures are dire. There's a sign taking about "negroes" in "Rhodesia". They have a bunch of stuff from peoples in the Pacific Northwest, but clearly never bothered asking anyone about their stuff or their culture. (That stood out because it's a contrast to the Field Museum in Chicago, where that's one of the exhibits they really worked on. Don't get me wrong, the Field Museum still has some dubious exhibits, but you can at least tell that they've heard of the last few decades of museum studies and anthropology.)
posted by hoyland at 4:43 AM on January 19, 2017

Regarding travel to and from the airport, I can't recommend Quick Ride highly enough. I've only used them once, but friends swear by them. It's kinda a combination of Uber and a regular car service in that you call and prearrange the trip, and they use drivers from a multitude of cars services so they have a pool of drivers available. It's much cheaper than a taxi, and you prearrange everything so that you just walk out of the airport and the car is waiting.

Last time I flew I had to come into Newark, I prebooked with Quick Ride, they took my flight info and asked me to call once I landed. I did this, and just as I was getting outside to the curb, my car pulled up. It was $40 plus tolls ($16) to my place in LES. It's even cheaper I think when flying into JFK. But's it's easy and from what I hear very reliable, so that's what sold me on it.

The one downside to some is that it's cash only (not to me, I always pay cash for car services anyway), but not sure how that would work with your expense account.

Looks like you can also book them via facebook.
posted by newpotato at 4:55 AM on January 19, 2017

And also while in NYC, may I recommend using Juno instead of Uber?

Juno uses all the same drivers as Uber and Lyft and operates the same way, but they are better for the drivers offering them profit sharing in the company and some other perks. Plus they still have their Beta pricing available, which is an automatic 10% off your trip. Even without the discount they are less expensive than Uber (I've never encountered their surge pricing, so I can't comment to that)
posted by newpotato at 5:00 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

A quick tip for figuring out directions is that even numbered one way streets that re even go east (44, 36, 88 etc.) while odd numbered one ways go west. So if you are facing the direction cars are going on an even street north is your left side.

The MET and the Natural History are a nice walk between them. Some museums have later night hours once a week which you could easily google.

I always recommend people take the bus around New York as you can see more (and follow along on google maps) they're including in the metro card and if you have a card you can transfer from the subway. I use the app Gett in Manhattan as it has rides in Manhattan for 10 dollars.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:29 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Check out Tanoshi sushi on the Upper East Side - it is not terribly far from where you'll be staying (about 20 mins via walking and subway if you take an uptown 6 train to 77th and walk down to York).

Your $100 budget wont get you very far as NYC sushi goes - its ridiculous and pains me a little how pricey it is here, I grew up on the west coast where actually pretty good moderate sushi is a thing, here you feel like your bargain hunting trying to get out of a place for 100/each. That said, i think this is a great option for you: they offer two different Omakase opions from 80-100 (with tax and tip you would end up just a bit over if you opted for the less expensive option).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 6:45 AM on January 19, 2017

If you don't want to cab/uber/juno it everywhere in town and are afraid of the subways you should know that another public transportation option is the city bus system. This is especially good in Manhattan and many of the things you mentioned wanting to see are an easy bus ride away.
posted by mareli at 7:12 AM on January 19, 2017

1) Least stress is definitely a taxi from JFK. Follow the signs to Ground Transportation--once outside look for a taxi stand (there will be a sign) where there is usually a line. Get in line, when you get toward the front they will ask you where you are going. Tell them Manhattan and they will give you a little ticket for which I have never known it's use. Then tell the taxi driver the intersection of your hotel. Yes they all have GPS, but they are all assholes about it and will otherwise ask you directions if you only give them an address. At the end of your ride, your final fare will pop up on the TV screen in the back and you can choose your tip, then swipe your card in the card machine near the TV. If you want a receipt you will have to ask for it from the driver.

Also, I would recommend a taxi or Uber for you in general if public transit causes you that much anxiety and you aren't really trying to go all over, just a few places. In a taxi remember to give them intersections, in an Uber you can just type in the actual location. They are pretty comparable in price. If you haven't ever hailed a taxi before, it's just like on TV (not at the airport where there is a line, just out in the city). Step out onto the street a little and stick your arm out. If the little light on top of the taxi is off, they have a fare or are off duty. The only taxis available have the numbers on top lit up. Not knowing this, you might be confused when 20 taxis pass you before one will stop. Remember, light up top. Or if you'd prefer, Uber can give a lot of peace of mind. I use Uber pool (where they pick up multiple passengers along the way) a lot and it's cheap as shit and not sketchy at all, it just takes a little more time.

2) I would absolutely go to the Met over the Natural History Museum. The Natural History museum can be fun in the sense that it's kind of campy/cheesy, but it won't blow your mind the way the Met will. Take 10 minutes before you go to look online at the collections that might interest you, because there's basically no way to do the entire museum in a couple hours, so you should pick two or three or four collections/exhibits that are a priority to see. Make sure to get a gallery map once you're in there and it's okay if you get lost. If it's a nice enough day, I would walk through the park to get there from your hotel--it's about 1.5 miles from your hotel, so a very nice stroll. Otherwise, take a taxi. Definitely leave your bags at the hotel until you are ready to go to the airport if you have the option.

3) I would go to Top of the Rock. From there you get a view of the Empire State building and World Trade Center so you can get good photos. Not sure any of the public observation floors are even open at sunrise though.

4) That time of year can go either way. It could be 50 degrees and sunny or 4 degrees and windy, hard to say. Keep in mind that the city, especially midtown where the buildings are tall, tends to be dark and windy. And walking from place to place puts you out in the elements more than most people who live in other places are used to. I would say that what you are planning on packing would be fine for a breezy 40 degree day. Any colder and you'll want to bring a puffy coat and a hat and maybe some warm boots.

5) For a good meal with a fabulous view, try Asiate at the Mandarin at Columbus Circle. $95 for three courses (pre tip/tax) so maybe a little out of your budget, but the views and menu seem to be to your liking. I also LOVE Marea. Otherwise the area around your hotel isn't really known for anything but crappy lunch delis, so branch out, look around. Maybe head down to the Village and grab food down there when you go to check out Stonewall (which is a quick cab ride). Lots of great small intimate places of whatever taste you desire down there. I like Bouvette which is a cozy little French place in the West Village.

6) Don't try to do too much! The park and the Met, Top of the Rock, nice dinner out and Stonewall and going to seminars all day is going to be enough, I promise. Otherwise just walk around and explore. Poke around Grand Central--it's lovely and has some nice shops, and there's a mini-NYC Transit Museum inside that's fun too. Definitely can kill an hour or two at Grand Central. The Morgan Library museum is near your hotel and it's a neat small museum to check out. And you can always try TKTS for discount last-minute tickets. You can look online and also go to the the TKTS kiosk in Times Square.

Don't feel anxious. People are generally helpful if you have questions, especially in midtown which is 50% tourists anyway. Good luck and have fun!
posted by greta simone at 7:56 AM on January 19, 2017

If you need a bathroom: Starbucks is everywhere and the bathrooms are single-stall unisex, and usually pretty clean. Buy a single petite vanilla scone or whatever and ask if there's a code.

But in general, yes, take every restroom opportunity that you get.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:58 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

If I was going for one nice dinner, I would definitely combine it with my trip to the West Village rather than try to do it in Midtown, whose dining scene is still mostly aimed at businesspeople with expense accounts and no taste. For instance, the Little Owl is within reasonable walking distance of Stonewall.
posted by praemunire at 8:09 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Or, if you're really desperate for a bathroom, just walk into any restaurant like you own the place and go straight to the bathroom without asking :)
posted by greta simone at 8:13 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Starbucks in New York doesn't require a purchase to use the bathroom (urban legend has it that it's due to some complex tax deal with the city, though I've never been able to verify that), and in fact NYC Starbucks managers have been fired for trying to restrict bathrooms before. If the bathroom doesn't have a code you can just walk in, if it does have a code you can ask the staff without buying anything and they'll tell you. Starbucks is essentially the city's de facto public bathroom network. In fact, I recommend downloading the Starbucks app, because it has a feature to map nearby Starbucks which I've used to find a public bathroom before.

For nice sushi at your price range, if you're willing to push it a little bit I highly recommend Sushi Nakazawa. It's $120 before tax and tip (so closer to ~150 total), and $150 if you want to sit at the sushi bar, but it's run by one of the apprentices featured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi so it's kind of a pilgrimage for sushi lovers that doesn't require actually going to Japan. It can be hard to get a reservation, though, so if you're gonna do it I'd try to nail it down now.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:16 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Starbucks has been closing a lot of their bathrooms in New York to the public, and from personal experience they will not let you use the bathroom--I had this happen at a Starbucks downtown around Wall Street and around Union Square. So be careful with that. Most big departments stores will have bathrooms, so do Barnes & Noble (if there are any left), Whole Foods.
posted by Automocar at 8:32 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not super fancy or anything but for sushi I love Choshi, which is near Union Square, which is a fun area to hang around--you can stop at the Strand bookstore, for instance. I've been a happy customer of both Choshi and Strand for over 20 years at this point.

You also may want to check out MoMA, which is pretty near where you're staying.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by ferret branca at 8:36 AM on January 19, 2017

I am wondering if it will be easier/safer to check out of the hotel in the morning but leave my bag with the concierge and retrieve it prior to going to the airport.

Yes, 100% yes. Not only will it be easier, you will not be allowed to bring luggage into the Met or the Natural History Museum, nor do they have a place to check it. (Only coats and small bags like purses and backpacks.)

In Midtown East, you won't be too terribly far from Koreatown (basically 32nd between Broadway and 5th, plus a couple blocks surrounding) or Curry Hill (Lexington Ave/upper 20s). There's a wealth of interesting food options in those places.

I think there's actually a bunch of Japanese food (not just sushi) in Midtown East and near Bryant Park—ask Chowhound and Yelp. The only one I know personally is Ootoya on 41st, which is yum.
posted by the_blizz at 9:20 AM on January 19, 2017

One thing that's not on your list is a warm layer for your legs. Like thermal underwear, or leg warmers, or leggings that can go under pants? Or pants to go over your leggings, Idunno. Like others said, there's no way to know how cold it will be until a day or two before.

Hamilton has a ticket lottery, and some other shows do too.

I agree you should walk through Times Square at night, and just a few blocks past that is Hell's Kitchen, which is named for the metric ton of restaurants, so maybe combine those destinations.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 9:27 AM on January 19, 2017

1. Nthing the idea of a yellow cab from JFK. Follow signs for Ground Transportation through the baggage claim and probably across a street. Get in the line for the yellow cabs when you get outside, despite the hard sell you may get from other drivers. Even if the line’s long it moves quickly. The yellow cab from JFK to Manhattan is a flat $52 plus tip & various fees, and worth it IMO. You can pay with a card.

2. Yes, ask about leaving your bag at the hotel; some museums won’t let you check them. You really can’t go wrong with either the Met or the Natural History Museum, unless you try to see too much at once. Note that both have suggested fees (you don’t have to pay the full $25, unless you’re going into a special/traveling exhibit).

3. Empire State Bldg lines are always longer than it seems like they should be. I’ve heard better things about the Top of the Rock but I’ve never been.

4. Clothing choices sound good except make sure you have something that’ll work if it’s wet. 30s and raining is not uncommon for this time of year.

5. As a Seattleite you may be disappointed by the sushi here unless you go to a really high-end & pricey place. I’ve been eating sushi in NYC most of my life, and I rarely find it as good (or affordable) as what I regularly get when visiting Seattle.

6. You’re going to be working & staying near Grand Central Terminal--go take a look, even if it’s just a quick pass through the Main Concourse with the big clock & the backwards stars on the ceiling! It’s just one of the most beautiful rooms there is. The Oyster Bar downstairs is also a treat--it’s lovely.

Echoing others above -- ask if you’re lost or not sure which way to go! New Yorkers love giving directions, it’s a favorite local pastime & point of pride.

Enjoy! I'll wave from Midtown West.
posted by miles per flower at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2017

Note that both have suggested fees (you don’t have to pay the full $25, unless you’re going into a special/traveling exhibit).

The Met doesn't charge fees for admissions to specific exhibits. One ticket is good for everything.

If you end up feeling too overwhelmed or tired to do a big museum, the Morgan Library and Museum will be relatively close and is more manageable. Gutenberg Bible, First Folio, historic building, etc.
posted by praemunire at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2017

Tip on bathrooms: Bars will often let you just walk in and use the bathroom, although their facilities can be...not so nice. Lots of times you can just go in and out without even saying anything to anyone.

1. Cab from JFK to Midtown should be about $60 including tip. If you are carrying luggage and are unfamiliar with public transit I would do this, although at that time of day you are likely to hit traffic. The exact location of the taxi stand will depend on the terminal, but all of them have very clear signage - so just follow signs to "ground transportation" and/or "taxis."

2. Definitely the Met. I think your plan to leave your luggage with the front desk and go is a wise one. You can walk from your hotel to Grand Central Station and take the 4 or 5 trains to 86th Street, then walk towards the park. There is just one stop in between, it's very easy.

3. I have heard good things about Top of the Rock, which is at Rockefeller Center (roughly 5th Ave. and 50th), but I have never been.

4. Your clothing plan sounds reasonable. Just check the weather before you go. You might want a thicker sweater and/or some outerwear in case it's wet.

5. If you're willing to spend $100 on a meal for one, sans alcohol, you can eat basically anywhere in the city. New York isn't THAT expensive. I wouldn't try to find sushi, there are some good spots but it's not really better than anywhere else. If you like Indian food, there is a clutch of good Indian places on Lexington Ave. around 28th St., probably a 15-20 minute walk from your hotel. I've heard good things about The Shakespeare, a traditional British pub on 39th near Madison, if that's your sort of thing. If you want NY specialties, Ess-a-Bagel at 51 St. and 3rd Ave. makes excellent bagels.

6. Here's an idea: the Met is pretty much in Central Park. To make a 5:30 flight out of JFK, you should probably get a cab at your hotel at around 3, just to be safe. So if the weather is nice on Thursday, you could totally get to the Met in the morning, and then spend an hour or two hanging out in Central Park before heading back to your hotel.
posted by breakin' the law at 11:59 AM on January 19, 2017

One more tip: if you do go to the Met, the $25 fee you see posted is a "suggested donation." Do not feel obligated to spend this much to get in, you can just give them a dollar if you'd like.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's a taxi stand at JFK. Get in the line and take a cab via the taxi stand. You tell the booth attendant your destination and they tell you the price. It's fairly well regulated. ($5-$10 tip is good.) Private car service guys may try to offer you rides. There are potential scams there, potential to just charge exorbitant amounts. It's worth it to just wait for the cab in the line.

9th ave in the 40s has a lot of good restaurants. One of my favorites over there is Bali Nusa Indah (Indonesian food) at 9th just north of 45th st.

If I had to choose only one of those museums, I'd choose the Museum of Natural History. It reeks of awesomeness. Just phenomenal. I believe they have a coat & bag check there, if you wanted to go from there to the airport.

NYC in the winter can get really cold and very windy. Right now it's unseasonably warm, so you may luck out, but it can also go sub-freezing at any time. It's wise to bring comfortable walking shoes and several layers. Waterproof shoes and coat are best if you have them.
posted by Cranialtorque at 12:55 PM on January 19, 2017

On getting to Stonewall:

If you are taking the subway there on any day of your trip except Sunday, follow the directions that everyone has laid out here, i.e. take the 1 train downtown from Times Square/42 St to Christopher St-Sheridan Square (5 stops in between) and it is right outside the station. To get home take an uptown 1 train back to Times Square.

If you are taking the subway there on Sunday 1/30, follow the directions:
Take the 2 or 3 trains in the "downtown and Brooklyn" direction from Times Square/42 St to Christopher St-Sheridan Square (5 stops in between). To get home take an uptown 2 or 3 train back to Times Square. Do not take a 1 train on Sunday 1/30, it will not stop at Christopher St in either direction that day only.

Source, for all you New Yorkers
posted by andrewesque at 1:45 PM on January 19, 2017

You guys are all amazing and I love you for your helpful advice and reassurance. I'm tentatively looking at hitting the Top of the Rock on Wednesday right around sunset (still tickets available for 5 pm and conference ends at 445, cutting it close) and then eating dinner at Limani after. A lot of the restaurants mentioned sounded amazing (got really excited about Marea) but are already full the nights I'm there.
posted by skycrashesdown at 3:51 PM on January 19, 2017

FYI I'm pretty sure it's open seating at the bar at Marea which is very comfortable and serves the exact same menu.
posted by greta simone at 4:51 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Most of the nyc Whole foods now require a code to use their bathroom (except the one at columbus circle, which is in a mall with facilities on other floors).
posted by brujita at 6:07 PM on January 19, 2017

Just cab it from JFK. If you really needed to save the $, the train is a fine option, but it's fussy to navigate the transfers if you're stressed out. That's not a fun way to start your trip.

During your stay, do give the subway a try when you're not pressed for time. In terms of experiencing NYC, it's pretty amazing to be able to go so far, so fast, in such a dense city, with another train coming down the track seemingly constantly. And look, if you take the train in the wrong direction, or have to double-back down a stairway because you misread a sign, please don't be embarrassed AT ALL, and keep in mind that:
a) You're doing something that even seasoned New Yorkers do, even if they don't admit it, and,
b) Absolutely no-one is paying attention enough to even notice, let alone scoff at you. You could ride a unicycle across the platform wearing a tutu and a Viking helmet and barely raise an eyebrow.

Dining in Midtown is an exercise in avoiding the tourist traps and dreck, but there are gems in the "food wasteland," as Midtown Lunch calls it. (I know you said breakfast and lunch were covered at the conference, but it's always good to know where to get good cheap eats during the day.) Dinner recs, from Serious Eats (from 2014, so double-check these before you go.)

Yes, on your last day let the hotel store your bag while you explore! I'd pick the Met over Natural History any day, personally.
posted by desuetude at 11:34 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Update: on the ground and safely ensconced in a cab on my way out of JFK. Tonight, Grand Central. Tomorrow, a ticket to see Wicked. Wednesday, Top of the Rock and Limani. Thursday, Moma. Thank you guys!!
posted by skycrashesdown at 1:35 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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